It is not uncommon to read the news and notice a story about an outbreak of Salmonella or E. coli. Large outbreaks tied to a particular food item, processing facility or restaurant can get a lot of news coverage. Most instances of food poisoning are not tied to outbreaks, however. As such, there are millions of cases of foodborne illness each year that may happen to only a few people. By implementing food safety practices, consumers and food industry workers can minimize their risk.
How Food Poisoning Happens
Foodborne illnesses are spread by contact with tools or materials where they are present. Many of these illnesses are caused by bacteria, such as Salmonella. Others are caused by viruses, such as Norovirus.
Most foods pass through many hands and types of equipment before they reach the consumer, which means there are lots of opportunities for a food item to pick up harmful bacteria. Contamination can happen during any step, but usually becomes a problem due to a lack of food safety practices. People can get sick from touching or eating contaminated foods.
Risks of Foodborne Illness
Although most people survive foodborne illnesses without too many problems, it can be a serious concern for some. In fact, 40% of cases of foodborne illness happen in children under age 5. It’s reported that about one in six Americans get food poisoning every year.
For most people, food poisoning is a day or two of digestive upset, diarrhea and vomiting. For others, it can cause extreme illness and even death. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system are at higher risk of complications from food poisoning.
Reasons to Follow Food Safety Practices
From the farm to food sorting equipment to the kitchen, there are plenty of reasons to follow food safety practices. For consumers, paying attention to proper food handling guidelines is the best way to help ensure better health for the family. For people who work in the food industry, food safety is a key part of health and long-term viability of the business.
Companies with lax food safety practices put themselves and their customers at risk for an outbreak. Food poisoning outbreaks can be highly publicized, which may create a negative image for the business for years. Additionally, large recalls of food items could contribute to millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Key Aspects of Food Safety
There are several key aspects of food safety that food industry professionals need to follow; consumers can benefit from them, as well.
- Good cleaning, sanitation and waste management practices
- Avoiding cross-contamination by storing and preparing raw foods apart from ready-to-eat foods
- Cooking foods to a sufficient temperature before serving
- Refrigerating foods promptly after purchase
Bacteria is more likely to multiply on fresh foods at temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, it is important to keep these foods chilled before preparation and cooked to the right temperature shortly before serving.
How to Improve Food Safety Practices
Preventing food poisoning is something that everyone can help to ensure. It takes proper attention at every step in the process. There are some improvements that are relatively straightforward to implement, such as:
- Designing a food processing or preparation area that reduces the likelihood of contamination
- Making cleaning an important part of each task, particularly when transitioning from one type of food to another
- Eliminating or preventing pest infestation, as pests can also carry harmful bacteria
- Encouraging everyone to improve their personal hygiene standards, such as effective hand-washing
For businesses, adding oversight to confirm compliance to food safety standards can help to highlight problems.
Keeping foodborne illness from making people sick is an important task for public health, and everyone must participate to be effective. Learning and using food safety practices help to make it easier for consumers to stay healthy and for organizations to continue doing business.
This infographic was created by Key Technology, a provider of gummy manufacturing equipment